Immersive Textile Narratives

Three sites feature in the recently commissioned film of Hannah Lamb’s practice. The studio in the garden of her home in West Yorkshire, the Textile Archive and print room at Bradford College of Art where she teaches, and Sunny Bank Mills, a former textile mill that informed the making of [De]Constructed Cloth 2019. The places appear sequentially. Then re-appear, in and out of turn, interplaying with images of finished work and the processes involved in their creation. This back and forth is characteristic of Hannah’s textile practice, as are the places where it is framed. Her work is imbued with the history of her medium. Past and present co-exist, not so much woven together as layered, pieced and threaded in a nuanced, material response to a shared experience of textiles. Whatever is made evolves over time. A step is taken, then reflected upon. Something is unpicked, something made, something else added or removed. The slow considered pace echoes the rhythm of hand stitching. It is a settling process, an act of deliberation that focuses attention on what is beheld at a particular moment. One is made aware of the tactility of material; of how each fabric must feeland of what it might speak. Listening is important. Hannah’s is acute. She seeks out conversations. Each piece is a dialogue in which elements change as the making unfolds. Nothing is imposed. Qualities are rather worked with and elucidated. Such responsiveness requires huge skill, and a significant amount of patience. There is something remarkable about seeing a piece of cloth that has been digitally printed, pieced and stitched, purposefully deconstructed into singed patches, brittle threads and desiccated fragments. In a matter of seconds, the material has been transformed into an archaeological remnant by the process of devoré. The accretion of time is palpable.

Devoré is one of numerous processes used by the artist. These include both stitch and print. Several contain an element of unpredictability with the outcome varying from piece to piece. This uncertainty is part of the creative discourse. The questions raised offering avenues to be explored that themselves help shape the resolution of a piece. In some instances, a specific question is allowed to remain and posed to the viewer. Such is Incomplete Histories, 2021, a work in six parts inspired by archival material that examines the histories they reveal and those they conceal. Informed by the artist’s experience of researching historic dye-recipe and sample books, Incomplete Histories is a characteristically subtle and nuanced piece. Its challenge is offered quietly, positioned within the material itself. Each unit of cloth is a form of archive. Every layer of textile a repository to be explored. Layering is something repeatedly referenced by the artist. Materials, techniques, histories: there are layers of each in every piece. Layers of making and of time, also. Hannah’s work is made to be shown in any location, but it is in the places of textiles history where it is most resonant. It is the offering of a further layer, the continuation of a material dialogue. 

June Hill, 2021.

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